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Vol. 5 No. 1 (2022): Pandemic Politics and Phenomenology

Embodied Social Habit and COVID-19: The Ethics of Social Distancing

  • Danielle Petherbridge
February 9, 2023


This paper employs a phenomenological approach to examine the centrality of embodied habit in both the proliferation and the transmission of COVID-19. The analysis focuses not only on the difficulty of amending embodied habits but on the question of the ethics of social distancing and the role of human agency in the amendment of such habits. To this effect, the relation between passivity and activity in the uptake of habit is emphasized and the active and agential aspects of embodied habit are highlighted. In contrast to the predominance of more negative accounts of social distancing, the paper considers the kind of ethical reorientation that is required to amend embodied and social habit in the face of the mutual vulnerability evoked by COVID-19. This analysis is distinguished from more far-reaching government measures in relation to COVID-19; instead, it offers a consideration of the kinds of responsibility towards one another at the level of everyday life.